Opening your first pizzeria

A lot of us baby boomers remember when going out to eat was a real treat and very special event; today eating out has become as common as going to school or work. Whether we are grabbing a slice on the run, sitting down to an elegant five star extravaganza or anything in between, North Americans are eating out more than ever and there is no sign that this trend is changing. It seems that there has never been a better time to open a restaurant. However, it must be done with the utmost care and complete planning.

By 2011, projections show that the restaurant will operate more than 1.1 million units with sales of $583 billion meaning it will total 55 percent of every food dollar. If you are confident and smart about it one or more of these enter- prises could be yours.

Even though all indicators suggest a bright future for the food service industry, you already know there are no guarantees – only death and taxes, as the saying goes. Any experienced operator will probably tell you that it is not easy, the hours are long and you will not get rich over night. If you can manage for the long haul and your recipe is successful, you will realize the fruits of your labors.

The disappointing fact is that many restaurants fail in the first year, mainly due to poor planning and execution. This does not mean you have to be a rocket scientist or it has to be extremely complicated. In fact, it is and should be kept as simple as possible. Focus on your market and dominate it. James Flowers, owner of M/T Foods says, “The formula for success is: First – quality and great tasting food; Second – good fast service; Third – great friendly people. This has always served me well.”


There is no single food service concept that has universal appeal. This is a fact that most aspiring new entrepreneurs have trouble digesting and accepting, but it is the reality. You will never capture 100 percent of anything so focus on the 5 to 10 percent of the market that you can get and simply forget the rest.

Generation Y

This generation is also called the millennial generation and the echo or boomlet generation. This group includes those born between 1980 and 2000. Generation Y is the most ethnically diverse generation yet and is approximately three times the size of Generation X . They are a prime target for a food service business.

Generation X

The X group are young adults born between 1965 and 1977. This generation has matured and has strong family ties and values. Baby boomers focused on doing financially better than their parents, Xers prefer to focus on their relationship with their kids. These consumers prefer casual, convenient operations instead of formal, upscale restaurants. They are also focused on value, and they frequent quick-service restaurants and middle of the road places that offer all-you-can-eat salad and food bars. So offering a comfortable atmosphere that focuses on ambiance and value would appeal to this group.

Baby Boomers

Born between 1946 and 1964 this group makes up the biggest North American consumer group. They are affluent professionals that can afford to visit upscale restaurants. Their children have left or are leaving home and they are now becoming grandparents. They frequent restaurants that offer family-friendly atmosphere as well as formal upscale concepts where they can visit or entertain without the children.

Empty Nesters

This group of people in their early 50’s to about 65 typically have grown children no longer at home. Their ranks will continue to grow as the baby boomers age. This is the richest group and they frequent upscale establishments. Their concern is to have excellent service and outstanding quality food. They look for elegant and sophisticated places with great ambiance.


This beautiful group are people 65 and older. It is a market that will continue to grow as empty nesters and baby boom- ers continue to age. Seniors tend to be on fixed incomes and so they tend to lean towards family-style restaurants that offer good service and reasonable prices. Their health may be an issue so their appetites tend to be towards early bird specials, seniors menus with lower prices and smaller portions.

By 2011, projections show that restaurants will operate more than 1.1 million units with sales of $583 billion, meaning they will total 55 percent of every food dollar.

The four restaurant types are quick service restaurants, fast food restaurants, midscale and upscale restaurants. You need to pick one that reflects what you do best. Then you must select a concept. Concepts provide structure for what the restaurant is. Some popular concepts include casual dining, family style, ethnic, seafood, steakhouses, sandwich/delicatessen, bakery, coffeehouse and our beloved pizzerias.


Pizza is a $30 billion market and there are two main choices. One is to go restaurant in a modest facility with a special- ized pizza and beer-focused menu. Limited seating and self-service atmosphere. The other is a full service pizza restaurant with a menu that features not only a variety of pizzas, beer and wine, but also Italian entrees like spaghetti and meatballs, ravioli and lasagna, side dishes such as salads, salad bars and some desserts. Of course, the main thing and focus has to be good pizza (is there any other kind). Make good pizza and word of mouth will keep them coming back.

You will need serious planning, decide on your specific segment and niche you will occupy. You should do a self-analysis and see what you are best suited for and can you develop a niche in your market. The best way to learn is to work in the same restaurant type you wish to start. It is the best way to learn and will tell you if you are cut out for this industry. Look at it like you’re being paid for an education, and there is nothing wrong with that.

Yours In Pizza…Dino Ciccone